Marquette stays unbeaten
Explorers "map out" direct "route" in "rout" of Steeleville
Murphysboro, Freeburg post easy wins
SPARTA – In the early going of the opening contest Thursday night at the 54th annual Sparta “Mid-Winter Classic” the Alton Marquette Explorers were having some issues finding Steeleville's top scorer Owen Gross.

The junior guard got loose for some shots in the first quarter as the Warriors held a brief 9-8 lead with seven of the points coming from Gross, including a 3-pointer from the top of the arc.

Marquette head coach Steve Medford called a time out and whatever he said during the stoppage in play worked.

Not only did the Explorers find Gross but they blanketed the rest of his Warrior teammates the rest of the way.

The defending tournament champs went on three scoring runs in the first half and stymied Steeleville's offense in the process of a 59-31 win to improve to 2-0 in the event and a sparkling 19-0 mark for the season.

Coach Medford's Explorers followed up the Gross 3-point goal with a 9-0 run to take the lead for good.

Three different players hit for double-figures in scoring for Alton Marquette, led by 6-foot senior guard Sammy Green with 17-points.

Green connected on a trio of 3-point bombs and nailed all four of his free throws to lead the scoring attack.

“Green is just tough, he is really tough. He is an unbelievable player and he is going to be one kid that I will hate to see leave (graduate) because he is a great kid and a great player,” said Coach Medford. “He can really fill it up.”

Six-foot-two junior guard Isaiah Ervin added 11-points while 6-foot-7 senior Jake Hall collected five made baskets in the paint for 10-points.

However it was at the defensive end of the floor that the Explorers found their niche.

Alton Marquette quieted the Warriors, shutting down Coach Aaron Fiene's offense.

Steeleville saw their mark slip to 8-9 overall with the defeat, due mostly to not being able to get much done with the ball after the first four minutes of play.

The Warriors hit just 12-of-37 from the floor while committing 21-turnovers against the Marquette “steel curtain.”

Most of the turnovers were forced and turned into transition points in the first half.

“They are one heck of a team, they are dynamite. They shoot the ball really well and they defend. They are really well coached. Fundamentally sound and athletic,” said Coach Fiene. “I'm proud of the way our guys played. We ran out of gas a little bit and fell apart late but there is a big difference between 1A and 3A. Without a doubt.”

Trailing by a point early, the next nine points in succession came from Ervin and Green.

Ervin began the run with a 3-pointer from the left wing and added another bucket off of an assist from Green.

Green closed the sprint with a driving lay in off of a steal by senior teammate Reagan Snider for a 17-9 lead.

After Gross opened the second quarter with a drive to the goal for a score, Marquette went on run number two.

Senior guard Jayce Maag got in on the fun with his only score of the night on a cut to the basket and then Green, Snider and Ervin all scored points.

Six-foot-six junior forward Nick Hemann corralled a rebound and his stick back with 3:52 left before halftime gave Marquette a 27-13 lead.

Junior Chris Hartrich added to the scoring for Marquette as he helped trigger yet another burst of points.

Two more Steeleville turnovers added to the dilemma.

Both end up with transition scores for Marquette with Green nailing a shot from the right win, a 3-pointer, that pushed the spread to 36-21 at the half.

Steeleville was forced into nine of their turnovers in the second quarter.

“It's a long two hour bus ride and a long week for us and when we got off of the bus we weren't ready. Our effort wasn't really good at the beginning but we stepped it up,” said Coach Medford. “We started disrupting what they wanted to do. Our kids are athletic and we know how to rotate on the defensive end and I thought we did a good job after the early problem.”

Marquette removed any and all doubt about the verdict in the middle of the third quarter.

After Steeleville sophomore Austin Hagel opened the second half with a 3-pointer, Marquette out gunned the Warriors 16-2 the rest of the frame.

Green scored eight of the points on a drive early in the run and then back-to-back 3-pointers from the left wing to slam home the outcome as the lead expanded to 50-26.

“We really thrive on that (defensive pressure) and that is what we have done in the past few years here,” said Coach Medford. “We force turnovers and score in transition. We want to get easy buckets. It gets everybody's juices flowing.”

Six quick points in the fourth quarter from the Explorers sent the game into the mercy rule continuous clock.

Ervin closed his night with one final long range bomb to give Marquette a 59-28 advantage.

Steeleville featured just one player in double-figures, 6-foot-6 senior Noah Valleroy, with 10-points with Gross finishing with nine.

Hemann (8) and Snider (7) were the other top scorers for the 3A state-ranked Explorers who are looking for a third consecutive tournament title in 2017-18 after capturing the
Metro-East Lutheran Thanksgiving Tournament championship along with that of the Freeburg/Columbia Holiday Tournament.

Coach Medford's squad hit 23-of-44 from the floor in the win, while converting 7-of-8 free throws.

Marquette moved into the title game for Saturday night with the victory.

They will likely play Murphysboro in the championship game.

The Red Devils are 2-0 in Pool A and can add their name to the finale on Saturday with a win over Waterloo, who is 0-2 so far this week, on Friday night.

Murphysboro beat Trico in the Thursday night late game, 60-30.

Marquette topped Murphysboro, 56-52 in last year's title game.

Steeleville is now 0-2 in Pool B and will face Cahokia Conference Kaskaskia Division rival Red Bud for the fourth time this season on Friday night.
The Warriors have a 2-1 mark against the Musketeers in the three previous contests.

“We had opportunities tonight but they defended us well. They (Marquette) are a tremendous team,” said Coach Fiene.

Game 1
Alton Marquette
Alton Marquette (59) –Beucker 0 0 0-0 0, Maag 1 0 0-0 2, Green 2 3 4-4 17, McGee 0 0 0-0 0, Hartrich 2 0 0-0 4, Cox 0 0 0-0 0, Ervin 2 2 1-2 11, Snider 2 1 0-0 7, Hemann 3 0 2-2 8, Hall 5 0 0-0 10, Dixon 0 0 0-0 0. 2FG-17, 3FG-6, FT-7-8, PF-11.
Steeleville (31)
– Stearns 1 0 0-0 2, Gross 3 1 0-0 9, Mulholland 0 0 1-2 1, Conway 0 0 0-0 0, Hagel 0 1 0-0 3, Mevert 1 0 0-0 2, Wilson 0 0 2-2 2, Wittenborn 0 0 2-3 2, Valleroy 5 0 0-0 10.
2FG-10, 3FG-2, FT-5-7, PF-9.

Fouled Out
– Maag - Alton Marquette.
Technical Fouls
– None.
The Midgets came up big in their win over the Musketeers as head coach Matt Laur saw his team improve to 1-1 in the event and 10-10 overall with the victory in the second game on Thursday night.

Freeburg got points from 10 different players in the romp as 6-foot-3 senior Zach Muir led the balanced attack with 14-points.

Sophomore Luke Ervie and junior Owen Smith each added 11-points while junior Carson Smith tossed in nine.

Coach Laur's club hit 22-of-35 from the floor and hit 12-of-13 from the foul line in the easy victory.

The Musketeers saw their record slip to 10-7 overall and 0-2 in the event.

Six-foot senior Griffin Ziebold led Red Bud with nine-points while head coach CJ Cruser got seven-points from 6-foot-5 senior Alex Birchler.

The Midgets broke open the game with a 17-6 second quarter to lead 31-15 at the half.

Game 2
Red Bud
Red Bud (26) – Riechmann 0 0 0-0 0, Birchler 2 0 3-8 7, Ziebold 2 0 5-5 9, Carter 0 0 0-0 0, Wiegard 0 2 0-0 6, Birdkner 1 0 0-0 2, Cowell 1 0 0-0 2, Fithian 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-6, 3FG-2, FT-8-13, PF-11.

Freeburg (58) – Muir 5 0 4-4 14, Bumann 1 0 0-0 2, Ervie 4 1 0-0 11, Haas 0 0 0-0 0, O. Smith 4 1 0-0 11, Lickenbrock 1 0 0-0 2, Mack 0 0 0-0 0, Diecker 0 0 2-2 2, Haug 0 0 0-0 0, C. Smith 2 0 5-5 9, Bonta 1 0 0-0 2, Cockrell 0 0 1-2 1.
2FG-20, 3FG-2, FT-12-13, PF-12.

Fouled Out – None.
Technical Fouls – None.